Graduation calendar stirring controversy

A controversy appears to be heating up in regards to the scheduling of the 2014 Princeton High School graduation and the subsequent all-night party.
On April 23 the Princeton Board of Education approved a 2013-14 school calendar that included a June 8 graduation, which was set for a Sunday afternoon. The 2015 graduation was also set for a Sunday afternoon on June 7.
The change was proposed to the board because state athletic championships — the state track meet, for example — have caused some students to miss graduation or be late for commencement exercises on the night of Friday graduation ceremonies.
A few questions were asked by board members the night of April 23 as they received the recommendations of the administration. But there was nothing controversial said about a move to Sunday graduation. Howard Vaillancourt made a motion to approve the 2013-14 and 2014-15 calendars that included the pair of Sunday graduation ceremonies. Craig Johnson seconded the measure. The motion was approved unanimously with a 7-0 vote.
But word of a Sunday graduation next year hasn’t sat well with parents. An online poll conducted by the Union-Eagle shows that of 61 respondents, 48 do not support a Sunday graduation and nine respondents don’t care. Just four people answered “yes” to the question: Do you support Sunday graduation in 2014?
Class of 2014 parent Angie Maxwell doesn’t support Sunday graduation, either. She appeared before the school board on June 11 to tell members just that.
Maxwell met with Superintendent Julia Espe the week prior. Maxwell said she was told that the move in graduation dates was made because of athletic events.
That led Maxwell to the Minnesota State High School League, where she had a discussion about athletics, graduation and tournament scheduling with MSHSL staffers.
“My impression was that we should not count on (state tournaments) always being on the same days since they depend on venue availability,” was the message Maxwell said she walked away with.
Maxwell was curious to compare the number of students participating in athletic events on graduation day to the number of students affected by a change in the graduation date. She reiterated that changing the graduation date affects the entire Class of 2014 and all future classes. (The 2013 graduation class included 217 students.)
Maxwell said a change in graduation times affected schedules not only on graduation night, but possibly the entire graduation weekend.
“For students that have out-of-town friends and family traveling to their graduation, it is sometimes a weekend event, including their open house while family and friends are in town,” Maxwell said. “If it is held on a different day of the week, this may not be an option for some families.”
Maxwell acknowledged that she has heard that there has been a conflict between student athletes and their graduation ceremony for many years.
“Students have to race back for their ceremony hot and unshowered and barely make it or miss their ceremony completely,” Maxwell said.
Yet the Friday graduation followed by a senior party has remained a tradition for more than 20 years, she said.
Maxwell also criticized deviating from what she called a school district policy of not holding events on Sundays.
Espe said she is looking for feedback from the community on the graduation issue and acknowledged that people are confused by the school board’s actions of April 23. She committed to having the school district form a committee on the subject and host a community meeting to discuss the matter further.
Espe also said the district could consider conducting its own poll using its Skyward telephone system — a automated phone system used by the district to communicate with parents.
Espe added that there are no plans to cancel the all-night senior party.
School Board Member Chuck Nagle asked Espe when the committee work would be complete, setting the board up to potentially rescind its April 23 decision and take a new vote on the school calendar.
“We’ll have a decision by mid-July,” Espe said.

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